Should you be concerned if your blood test results fall outside of the "normal" or reference range? No. Most likely, you never wanted to be normal anyway. Laboratory test results are often misunderstood or misinterpreted to believe they are an absolute assessment of your health. However, lab tests are not used to confirm your state of health, but used to determine if ill symptoms are an indication of a suspected disease. If lab tests show "normal" results, a disease is typically assumed to not be present. However, results that fall slightly outside of the "normal" range should not be a reason for concern. Here is a clearer understanding of how these tests should be read and understood.
Lab results indicate a reference range, which is the range that 95% of healthy individuals are under. This mean 5% of the healthy population are outside of the "normal" or reference range. Typically, those that fall outside of the reference range are just below or just above the normal level. This does not indicate ill results. How was the reference range determined? Simply by testing a large population of healthy individuals and averaging what seems normal. This range is dependent on gender and age. Falling in or outside of the reference range is a helpful measurement, but lab results should be considered in context. What may be considered normal for one person, may not be normal for you. For example, a resting heart rate may be 70 beats per minute for the average person. Yet, an athlete may have a lower resting heart rate at 50 beats per minute. This would be considered normal based on regular physical activity. Furthermore, if you are riding a bike uphill and your heart rate is 140 beats per minute, this could be normal for the physical exertion you are experiencing.
Variability & Reliability
Variability indicates that the lab test will not always produce the same results. A person may have a blood test taken three times, but results may be different each time. However, the results should be similar to each other. Reliability means the test is repeated, if the numbers or results do not make sense. This is to ensure accuracy. When it comes to interpreting lab results, your physician can provide a helpful explanation of your results. Often lab results are most beneficial when they are taken every six months or so to understand the trends and detect any changes. It is best to remember that lab tests are one of the means to determine your overall health. They are not the end result, but a very helpful tool.
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